NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Alabama Crimson Tide Vs. Clemson Tigers

By  //  January 9, 2017

Saban seeks sixth title in eight years

ABOVE SPACE COAST DAILY SPORTS SHORTS: Don’t miss this latest edition of Brevard County’s most informative and entertaining multimedia sports talk show – Space Coast Daily Sports Shorts – hosted by Space Coast Daily’s Alan Zlotorzynski and featuring the best of local, state and national sports news and information. (Monday, Jan.9 , 2017 edition)

Game Info

• No. 1 Alabama (14-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson (13-1)

• Monday, Jan. 9, 2017

• Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

How to Watch

• Game time: 8 p.m. ET

• TV Channel: ESPN


TAMPA, FLORIDA – Tonight is the 57th time the No.1 and No.2 teams have faced off in college football history and history is on the side of the Tide as No.1 has a 30-23-1 edge in these contests.

With a victory tonight, Alabama coach Nick Saban will tie Alabama legend Bear Bryant for the most national championships (six) in the poll era. There already is much discussion about Saban being anointed the best ever.

“Well, I think Bear Bryant is probably the greatest coach that ever coached college football, and that would be my vote, and it would stay that way for a long time, because he had success over a long, long period of time,” Saban said.

Bryant, though, never had to navigate extra layers of games, such as conference championships and semifinal playoff games. Bryant’s first two titles — 1961 and 1964 — came when the wire services declared their national champion before the bowl games.

Saban is 10-0 in “championship” games, either in the SEC or for the national title. His teams have won their national championship games by an average of 15.4 points.

Alabama tight end O.J. Howard was the Offensive MVP of last season’s title game, with five catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns.

“We completely ignored him last year,” said Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “So we did a terrible job at defending him, obviously. And if we do it again, we’ll lose again.”

The game features 15 of the top 103 NFL Draft prospects for 2017, according to

Alabama has nine such players, led by defensive end Jonathan Allen at No. 1. Clemson’s top-rated prospect for now is receiver Mike Williams at No. 11.

For Clemson, QB Deshaun Watson will have to be better in this years game than he was last year and he was great last year. Watson comes home to the chilly sunshine state as perhaps the hottest player in all of football since the end of November.

The Gainesville native finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting  and has thrown for a school record 38 touchdown passes this year and 45 total touchdowns, including rushing scores. He holds 52 Clemson records and has a 31-3 record as the starting quarterback over the last three years.

ABOVE VIDEO: Clemson Football hangs on to beat Virginia Tech Football in the ACC Football Championship game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables loves to blitz  but Alabama can make you pay. Clemson’s leading tackler on defense with 121 stops in 13 games, including 9.5 for loss and four sacks is Ben Boulware. He also has caused three fumbles and two takeaways and shined when facing Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Boulware was National Player of the Week following a 17-tackle effort in a win over Louisville on Oct. 1.

Playing in their final games before turning pro on defense for Alabama is LB Reuben Foster and DL Jonathan Allen. Rare is it at any level to have two players at different levels with this much talent. Foster was the Butkus Award winner, as the Nation;s best linebacker. He led the Crimson Tide in tackles with 103, including 12 for a loss (-56 yards) and four sacks (-33 yards). Foster also recorded eight quarterback hurries and two pass breakups.

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Allen is a key cog Key part in a defense that leads the nation in total defense, rushing defense, scoring defense and defensive touchdowns. Allen led the Tide in quarterback hurries (15) and sacks (9.5) to go along with 15.0 tackles for loss.


ALAN:  Alabama’s backups could have won the SEC East this year. Their depth is amazing. While DeShaun Watson would win the Heisman vote if it were taken today, he’s one player facing a better defense than he saw last year in this game.

Alan Zlotorzynski

The Tigers win over Ohio State was impressive but the Buckeyes were not down the stretch.

They say defense wins championships and that might be why Saban has been so good in these games. His defenses are always one of the best. Alabama’s defense will contain Watson enough to outscore the Tigers in another thriller.

Alabama 27, Clemson 23

ZACH: All signs and stats say Alabama should win this game. Last year, Alabama was the 7-point favorite and won this game 45-40 to claim the national championship over Clemson. This year, it is a rematch and Alabama, once again, is a touchdown favorite. Could it be deja vu all over again?

Zach Clark

On paper, Alabama wins this game. However, college football isn’t played on paper and there is something to be said about revenge games in college football. Alabama had a Heisman trophy winner (Derrick Henry) and senior QB Jake Coker leading the offense last year. This year, the Crimson Tide are playing a freshman QB who just lost his Offensive Coordinator, Lane Kiffin, for this game.

The stable of running backs for the Tide are impressive and multiple, but there is no Heisman running back this year. Everything points to Alabama winning, because of Bama’s defense, however I like veteran QB’s on the biggest stage and Clemson has unfinished business from last year. This will be Clemson QB Deshaun Watson’s final game (assuming he declares for the NFL Draft). He has a fellow first-rounder wide receiver Mike Williams as his go to man with 90 receptions on the year.  Give me the Tigers.

Clemson 31, Alabama 27